National Bus Strategy: CCN response

CCN Latest News, CCN News 2021 | 15 March 2021

Today the government has published its long-awaited National Bus Strategy, with £3bn being made available to ‘transform’ public transport and infrastructure across England.

The County Councils Network had sought to influence the strategy with a Parliamentary inquiry last year, which culminated in a joint report with the County All-Party Parliamentary Group examining the decline in public transport in rural areas.

The report called on the government to not overlook county areas and today’s document makes it clear that urban areas will not be prioritised for funding over county locations.

County leaders are also pleased that the strategy raises the question as to whether the Bus Services Operators Grant could be devolved to local authorities, and offers bus franchising powers to all areas. Both of these were argued for by the CCN.

The government’s National Bus Strategy stipulates that councils should set up ‘enhanced partnerships’ with bus providers, and have plans in place for these arrangements by October to access a part of the £3bn investment.

Cllr David Williams, chairman of the County Councils Network, said:

“This long awaited bus strategy puts councils in the driving seat of reforms, which is right: they know their communities best and where the gaps in service coverage are.

“We are very pleased that the National Bus Strategy does not focus on the major cities at the expense of other areas, as the County Councils Network has argued. Offering county authorities the ability to franchise local buses is something we have long called for, and asking the question as to whether the Bus Services Operators Grant should be devolved to councils is a positive step in the right direction.

“As our inquiry with MPs argued last year, reduced public transport hits rural areas the hardest, from isolated elderly people to the social mobility prospects of younger individuals, so county areas should receive a fair share of the £3bn investment from this strategy. It is imperative that our councils’ ambitions to transform services and work closer with providers is matched with adequate funding.”